Posted June 11, 2008 6:51 am by with 10 comments

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When Google first launched Google Trends–a tool for view the popularity of search terms–it was greeted as a fun gimmick, but hardly a serious research tool.

Yesterday, Google Trends took a baby-step towards being something of value.

Here’s what was added:

  1. You now get a relative scale for each trend. You still don’t get the number of searches per day, but you at least get a scale to measure different keywords against.
  2. You can now export the data to a CSV file.

Google’s Heej Hwang explains the scales in more detail:

You’ll notice a number at the top of the graph as well as on the y-axis of the graph itself. These numbers don’t refer to exact search-volume figures. Instead, in the same way that a map might “scale” to a certain size, Google Trends scales the first term you’ve entered so that its average search volume is 1.00 in the chosen time period. So in the example above, 1.00 is the average search volume of vanilla ice cream from 2004 to present. We can then see a spike in mid-2006 which crosses the 3.00 line, indicating that search traffic is approximately 3 times the average for all years.

Here’s an example:

Anyone care to guess why Google would introduce these new features? Of course, it does help us with our keyword research–and we all know Google would love for us to identify hot-trend keywords, then bid on them at AdWords–but is there another goal here?

Maybe it wants to compete with KeywordDiscovery, or perhaps event Compete.com. Any other ideas?